First, I had no idea what a publicist did when I joined the NYC entertainment PR boutique Zarem Inc. right out of college. It was days after his client "Pumping Iron" star Arnold Schwarzenegger graced the covers of both TIME and Newsweek when TIME and Newsweek WERE TIME and Newsweek. It was in those stories where Bobby was anointed "Super Flack," presumably for his unrelenting charm and tenacity.
This was not an easy job. But what 22-year-old could reject a life filled with bold-faced names and celebrity-filled events? Over the next three years, I had a total of five days of vacation and on the one day I called in sick, Bobby demanded that I show up.
I worked on some really cool projects, including the I Love New York campaign for which Bobby spent his waking days trying to cement credit for its creation. (It's more complicated than that.) Other projects included Diana Ross' first solo tour, the films "The China Syndrome" and "Absence of Malice," and Alan Alda's first two theatrical films: "The Seduction of Joe Tynan" and "The Four Seasons." It was for the latter that Bobby actually bought me a present for my work: a cashmere cable knit sweater from his brother Danny's clothing shop Andre Oliver on East 57th Street.
I posted a blog on Feb. 5, 2010 as a tribute to Bobby when he decided to leave New York and return to his hometown of Savannah.
As fun as the celebrity stuff was, it was learning the ins and outs of the news media that drove my passion for the business. And as much as has changed on that front, i.e., we no longer can rely on the benevolence of a journalist to drive our clients' communications objectives -- "earned media" remains a powerful discipline for moving the needle. For inculcating in me the art of media relations, I am grateful to Bobby. RIP.
Peter Himler is founder of Flatiron Communications, an NYC-based consultancy offering best-in-class services to emerging and established companies.